Mexico

Strong earthquake kills at least 23 in Mexico

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By Bernardo De Niz

COLIMA, Mexico (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake shook central and western Mexico on Tuesday night, killing at least 23 people on the Pacific coast and sending panicked residents rushing into the streets in tears.

"There are many houses that have fallen down and many buildings destroyed," Red Cross volunteer Marta Requena said in the western city of Colima near the epicenter.

Emergency workers struggled to treat at least 100 people who were injured in Colima, a city of some 125,000 people where walls and homes collapsed.

"People are coming to give us medicine from their homes but it is not enough, we need more," Requena told Reuters.

In the center of the city, firefighters tackled a small blaze at a furniture shop apparently sparked by the earthquake of at least 7.6 in magnitude.

Dazed residents slept in the open air or sat in chairs in the street on a balmy night, afraid to enter buildings.

The city is the capital of a small state of the same name which is devoted mostly to agriculture. The state is home to the active Volcano of Fire which last erupted in 1998.

The Seismological Service at Mexico City's UNAM University said the quake struck at 8:09 p.m. (9:09 EST /0209 GMT Wednesday), and measured 7.6. The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 7.8.

Colima Gov. Fernando Moreno said at least 21 people were killed in his state and warned the death toll could rise. "Since we were without electricity for five hours, we haven't been able to make a thorough check," he told Reuters.

A woman and a baby also died in the neighboring state of Jalisco, emergency services said.

FRIGHT IN MEXICO CITY

The quake rocked homes and offices in Mexico City, 310 miles (500 km) to the east, where power was briefly cut and buildings cracked.

Still, the shaking earth brought back terrifying memories of a 1985 quake of 8.1 in Mexico City that killed more than 10,000 people.

"I was putting my kid to bed when everything started to move. We ran out with all our neighbors. I was just thinking of '85, the earthquake of '85," said Beatriz Reyes, a resident of the central Mexico City neighborhood of La Roma, which was one of the hardest hit in 1985.

On Mexico City's central boulevard, Reforma, two twenty-story buildings, the Sevilla Palace Hotel and a government building, bumped together during the quake, said witnesses who briefly evacuated both buildings.

But the city dodged a bullet, with only a few dozen people treated for shock.

(With reporting by Karina Balderas, Kieran Murray, Fiona Ortiz and Chris Aspin)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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